Homily by Father Ed Moloney
It has been said, that Pope John Paul II felt that at the heart of his Pontificate was to spread the message of God’s infinite mercy.
Pope John Paul II’s desire for the world to know the Mercy of God, was providentially aided and maybe instigated by a Polish Sister of Our Lady of Mercy from his own diocese of Krakow, whose Religious name was Sr Maria Faustina of the Most Blessed Sacrament. In the Convent where she lived, Sr Faustina was regarded for her cheerfulness, her care of the poor who came to the convent in need of food and her kindness to girls who were educated at the Convent by the Sisters. Most of us have a nickname. Sr Faustina’s nickname was ‘the dump’, because many came to her with their problems and dumped them on her!!
On February 22, 1931, Sr Faustina was visited by Jesus in a vision who revealed himself as: “King of Divine Mercy." In that vision, Jesus was wearing a white garment with red and blue rays of light coming from his heart.
Jesus made 3 requests of Sr Faustina:
1. She was asked in the vision to become the apostle and secretary of God's mercy.
2. In her own life, she was to be a model of how to be merciful to others,
3. And she was to be an instrument for re emphasizing God's plan of mercy for the world.
In summary, Jesus message to her was: “I am sending you with My mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not want to punish mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to my Merciful heart.” Pope John Paul II promoted her spirituality and on April 30, 2000, she was canonized St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, the first saint of the new millennium. Pope John Paul also proclaimed Mercy Sunday (which we celebrate today) as a universal feast for the Church. He held up St Faustina and her message of devotion to the Divine Mercy as a model for the Church. As a result, Divine Mercy has become a powerful spiritual force throughout the world.
Back in January earlier this year, I visited the families of a number of seminarians in Vietnam who have come to Melbourne to study for the priesthood. A group of us travelled through the north, the centre the middle and the south of the country and in nearly every Church we visited was a statue of Jesus presented as the image of Divine Mercy. Vietnam seems to have grasped with two hands this devotion and message of Jesus which began with Sr Faustina in Poland which has now been promoted by the universal Church as was the hope of St Pope John Paul II.
So what is Divine Mercy?
In order to understand the power of it in action, we need to see how it is played out in people’s lives. We will look now at a few significant figure in our Church. In today’s gospel, we have one of the first post resurrection stories presented to us. The doors were locked and the disciples of Jesus were hiding out of fear of what had happened. The disciples had come to know a truth about themselves and each other. They were all sinners.
As Holy Week unfolded last week, we listened in our liturgies of how sin played out and was manifested in the disciples of Jesus, as he suffered through his passion. Peter’s awareness of his sin against Jesus caused him to weep bitterly. He had become violent cutting off the soldier’s ear. He had denied he knew his Master. And he with most of the apostles lacked courage, as they ran in fear into the darkness of the night.
St Faustina’s diaries can reveal to us something of what Peter may have felt:
Jesus said to her to write in her diary something which would be for the benefit of distressed souls:
“When a soul sees and realizes the gravity of its sins, when the whole abyss of the misery into which it has immersed itself is displayed before its eyes, let it not despair, but with trust let it throw itself into the arms of My mercy, as a child into the arms of a beloved mother. These souls have a right of priority to My Compassionate Heart, they have the first access to My mercy. Tell them that no soul has called upon My mercy has been disappointed or brought to shame. I am delight particularly in a soul which has placed its trust in my goodness.” (Diary, 1541)
We think too of Mary Magdalene. The one who was the First to see the Risen Lord. We are told she was the one whom Jesus had cast out seven demons. No doubt Mary had her fair share of sins. But she had in the end, stayed beside the Master in last hours of agony. No doubt she had experienced in her life what St Faustina had written in her diary:
“No soul that has approached Me has ever gone away unconsoled.” Diary, 1777
We also know of other saints who can help us understand Divine Mercy at work. As the early Church grew in numbers, St Paul, appears on the scene. Before his conversion we know he was one of the greatest persecutors if the early Church. In his own words: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst.” Yet God was merciful to him and had chosen him despite his persecution of the Early Christians to be the greatest missionary in the history of our Church. A few centuries later as the Church expanded, we come to St Augustine whom his mother Monica wept so many tears over because of his wayward ways. We pray for parents today who worry and suffer over their children.
St Faustinas’ diary reveals: “From this sea of mercy, graces flow out upon the whole world.” Diary, 1777
Yes, these great saints, Peter, May of Magdala, Paul, Augustine are our Captains. They are venerated and honoured as part of the Communion of Saints of our Church and they show us in their own lives how Divine Mercy is played out in human lives. God’s grace love and mercy knows no limits to those who turn to him in their need of forgiveness. No-one is beyond the Mercy of Jesus. As Jesus appears in his resurrected state to his disciples. His first words are: “Peace be with you.” There could not be a more irrational response to his Apostles who had abandoned him during his passion and death.
No pay back.
Jesus had taught his followers as he walked through the villages and towns of Israel to: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Now he showed the true meaning of those words. Not that his apostles were enemies, they were his friends. But he understood their human weakness and showed them great mercy as they repented. Today as we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday, let us remember the Apostles and the greatest saints were in need of Divine mercy. They received that gift in abundance from Jesus as he said to them those words that set them free: “Peace be with you.” The peace Jesus offers us, is a gift that brings about the greatest assurance we can be given: God is on our side even in our brokenness and fragility. The good news is on this Divine Mercy Sunday the same mercy that was offered to St Peter, St Mary of Magdala, St Paul and St Augustine is offered to us. But it doesn’t stop there. In the sermon on the Mount Jesus said: “Blessed are the merciful, they shall have mercy shown them. If we have asked for and received the Mercy of Jesus, we cannot but offer mercy and forgiveness to those who have hurt us. We too are called to bring the mercy of Jesus into our own relationships. This can be the greatest of all challenges and it is only through grace that this can be achieved. But in doing our best to facilitate Peace, we find the peace only Jesus can give.
Today as we celebrate the Divine Mercy of Jesus. We ask the intercession of St Faustina and St Pope John Paul ll, who Jesus used as special vessels to spread his message of mercy throughout the world.
St Faustina pray for us.
St Pope John Paul ll pray for us.
All saints of the Church pray for us.
May our last words be words of great confidence:
“Jesus I trust in you.”